Animating Democracy June 2008 E-News
Animating Democracy News and Updates

Americans for the Arts 2008 Annual Convention, June 19–22: Civic Engagement Track: Follow the Evolution Online
The Americans for the Arts 2008 Annual Convention begins Friday, June 19 in Philadelphia. We hope to see you there and at some of the Civic Engagement Track sessions!

For members of the field unable to attend this year’s convention, don’t fret! Americans for the Arts has invited 15 practitioners from various arts and cultural organizations nationally to write about the convention through the ArtsBlog on the Americans for the Arts website. Each track will be covered; some sessions or events may be profiled more than once (so stay tuned for multiple perspectives). The posts are already flowing in.

Stay tuned to the Americans for the Arts website for convention follow-up in the coming weeks.


News from the Field

Traces of the Trade to Premiere on POV, June 24, 2008
The film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North will have its television debut on PBS’s P.O.V on June 24, 2008 (check local listings). Supported by Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts supported by the Ford Foundation, the film follows director Katrina Browne and nine of her relatives as they retrace the voyage and industry of their ancestors—the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history—from the former mansion and wharf in Bristol, RI, to slave forts in Ghana, to former plantations in Cuba. Step by step, the family uncovers the vast extent of Northern complicity in slavery while also stumbling through the minefield of contemporary race relations. In this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, Traces of the Trade offers powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.

Traces of the Trade can be a catalyst for heart-to-heart dialogue, education and action through screenings in communities and classrooms. There are many steps you can take, on your own or with others. For a full list of these types of opportunities, check out Ways to Get Involved  on the Traces website.

National Museum of Mexican Art to Present A Declaration of Immigration
Launching a three-year commitment to immigrant-centered programs, this summer the Chicago-based National Museum of Mexican Art will present A Declaration of Immigration, a new exhibition depicting experiences and viewpoints from within U.S. immigrant communities. With assistance from 20 other culturally-specific institutions, the exhibition will run July 4–October 2, 2008, and showcase works from over 70 artists. The exhibition will help visitors increase their understanding of this complex issue by providing immigrant perspectives that are seldom included in the national debate. Public programs include: Sin Papeles (undocumented), a daylong symposium which will examine U.S. immigration policy; the Declaration of Immigration Film Series; Family Sundays: Personal Journeys, where families can describe how they or their ancestors arrived in the U.S. by creating a three-dimensional project exploring migration; and the development of a youth zine which will publish youth artwork on immigration.

Sustained Dialogue Campus Network Seeks Executive Director
The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN), a project of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, is currently looking for an Executive Director. Founded in 2003, the SDCN builds more cohesive, diverse, engaged campus communities through student-driven dialogue. SDCN's energetic team trains, mentors, and connects college students innovating new spaces for dialogue at 15 campuses nationwide. Based in Washington, DC, the Executive Director will drive a strategy to harness SDCN's high potential and rapid growth to build a robust, sustainable organization. Key roles include leading a strategic-planning process, implementing a sustainable fundraising plan, and cultivating external relations to build SDCN's national profile. For more information, contact Christina at

Articles and Publications

Great Expectations’ Philadelphia-based Regional Dialogues Begin in July
Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured a column on Great Expectations, a new civic partnership with the Penn Project for Civic Engagement which invites citizens and taxpayers to engage in regional dialogue about the future of arts and culture in the Philadelphia through the Big Canvas. Faced with dwindling arts education for the region’s youth and local arts organizations’ struggle for survival, The Big Canvas seeks to expand a local dialogue by asking citizens and taxpayers what they think: How should the region’s arts-and-culture assets be used? How are they valued? What problems or threats are perceived? What would they be willing to pay?

Dialogue will begin with a round of forums in July. In the fall, a second round will clarify the strategic options. The project will conclude with a Big Canvas Confab in November, bringing together cultural leaders, citizens, and the elected officials who'd be responsible to take key steps to put any strategy in place.

New on CAN: Community Arts Perspectives Vol. 1, No. 1
This month, the Community Arts Network (CAN) brings us the first issue of Community Arts Perspectives, a peer-reviewed, periodic online publication of the Community Arts Convening and Research Project. The essays in this first volume bridge many boundaries from the documentation of a challenging community-based university course to a national survey about the place of the arts in a time of shifting worldview. The issue contains an introduction by Editor Amalia Mesa-Bains, California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and essays by Laura Agnich, Kimberly Baker, Megan Carney and Shannon Turner, recently graduated from Virginia Tech; William Cleveland, Center for the Study of Art and Community; independent consultant Patricia Shifferd; E. Blaise DePaolo, Morgan State University; Jane Hirshberg, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange; Karma Mayet Johnson and a team from Cooper Union's Saturday School; Ken Krachek, MICA; Meade Palidofsky, Music Theatre Workshop; Johanna Poethig, CSUMB; and Rachel Marie-Crane Williams, University of Ohio.

This first volume published by CAN and Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), contains writing generated through the initial convening sponsored and hosted by MICA, March 16–18, 2008. Issues of Community Arts Perspectives will appear monthly throughout summer and fall of 2008, after which a new cycle of the project will begin. The Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) provided funding to support the Community Arts Convening & Research Project, making possible a national convening, research, and the publication of research and new writing.

Public Agenda Posts Primer on Public Engagement
Public Agenda, a nonpartisan opinion research and civic engagement organization which helps Americans explore and understand critical issues, recently published Public Engagement: A Primer from Public Agenda which provides an introduction to their community engagement methodology. A must-read for anyone trying to understand public engagement, or anyone already working in the field; the report outlines the differences between authentic public engagement and “business-as-usual” approaches to public involvement, details ten core principles of public engagement, provides examples of key practice and strategy, and offers a summary of the essential elements of successful public engagement efforts. The report can be downloaded from

New Publication: Dee Dee Does Utopia
Prompted by her own dismay at the outcome of the 2004 election, artist and writer Deborah Lawrence conducted a survey of 200 artists, writers, friends, and strangers for their thoughts on alternatives to the status quo. The result of those interviews, Dee Dee Does Utopia, seeks to answer the question, “What does utopia look like to you?” Combining responses to the question with photographs, reproductions, and painted illustrations layered with historic and literary text, the text features the completed collages and essays by art historians and critics.


Events on the Horizon

Call for Proposals: The Technology in the Arts Conference
Dates: October 9–11, 2008
Pittsburgh, PA
The Technology in the Arts Conference brings together a full spectrum of arts organizations to examine useful technologies and their impact (or potential impact) on the sector. Hands-on workshops and conference sessions spark dialogue around the role of technology in planning and programming, spotlight best practices as well as lessons learned, and provide hands-on training.

Proposals for sessions and workshops are currently being accepted. Sessions should cover relevant issues relating to the use (or potential use) of technology in arts management or production. Proposals must be submitted online by June 30, 2008.

Gatherings at the Crossroads of Art, Community, and Activism
This June and July, members of the Alternate ROOTS Resources for Social Change program will facilitate several regional gatherings of artists to listen, share fellowship, tell stories, and learn from each others’ experiences in creating art for social change, and working as artists and activists with and in communities. Gathering dates include: June 13–14 (Charleston, SC); June 27–28 (Atlanta); July 11–13 (Lewisville, KY); July 12–13 (Chestertown, MD); and July 18–20 (New Orleans).

Alternate ROOTS is an organization based in the Southeast of artists who work for social change in and with communities. ROOTS provides matching funding for Community-Artist Partnership Projects.

With support from the
Ford Foundation
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